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Uzbek Activist 'Detained Over Article' Critical Of Bank Cards System

Uzbek human rights activist Saida Kurbanova
Uzbek human rights activist Saida Kurbanova
TASHKENT -- A rights activist in central Uzbekistan says she was detained on August 15 for an article criticizing the government requirement that citizens use state-issued bank cards for cash withdrawals or purchases, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Saida Kurbanova told RFE/RL she was summoned to the Pakhtakor district police station in JIzzakh Province where she was "dragged up the stairs" by officers, including the district deputy chief of police. She was released after several hours.

A member of the Pakhtakor police who declined to give his name denied any force was used on Kurbanova.

Kurbanova said police told her she is being sued for libel over the article she wrote and posted on the Internet in March about the difficulties faced by people using the state-issued cards.

Police told Kurbanova one of the women mentioned in the article filed the libel suit against her on August 4.

Kurbanova told RFE/RL she denies the charge and believes the woman was coerced into making the complaint.

Many in Uzbekistan have complained about the "plastic card" method of making payments, saying not all merchants have the necessary machines and that the service charge for transactions conducted via these machines can be 20 to 30 percent of the price of items being bought.

Kurbanova is the head of the Pakhtakor district branch of the nongovernmental organization the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan.

In the past, she has worked to highlight the plight of farmers in Jizzakh.

In May 2007 the head of the Pakhtakor district, Ergash Soliev, called Kurbanova a "traitor to the motherland."

Read in Uzbek here